Dar a Luz is continuing to work towards improving maternity care in Honduras by initiating a campaign for protective practices in labor and delivery. Beginning October 20th, 2015, a Dar a Luz team is working in the public regional Hospital Occidente, in Santa Rosa de Copan.
The public hospital in Santa Rosa sees approximately 25 to 35 births a day, making it one of the busiest hospitals in Honduras. Limited government funding restricts the number of beds in the labor and delivery ward to ten. There is no possibility for privacy during delivery, and women often share a bed while laboring. Women in Hospital Occidente deliver their babies either on a bed in the labor ward, or in a delivery chair located in an adjacent room.
Most commonly, the delivery is attended by an Intern, who is a student doctor completing the obligatory three month term of practice in Gynecology and Obstetrics. Fully qualified gynecologists and obstetricians work primarily doing Caesareans, but may make occasional rounds in the delivery ward.
Dar a Luz has observed several practices being performed during labor and delivery that are unnecessary or harmful. As a result of these practices, women are at greater risk for infection, often suffer severe tearing, and endure unnecessary pain. Risks for the baby include paralysis or nerve damage to the shoulders and neck, brain damage, or death.
Currently a team of Dar a Luz volunteers consisting of a Canadian doula, a German midwife, and program Director Silvia Bahr, is working with the student doctors of Hospital Regional de Occidente. Midwife Catharina is demonstrating alternative practices for birth. The interns have observed her techniques to protect the perineum, slow the birth of the head, guide the baby out of the birth canal gently, and remove blood clots without risking infection and causing unnecessary pain. The midwife and doula Seneca, have also demonstrated the importance of maintaining a tranquil environment, communicating with the woman how the birth is progressing, and supporting her emotionally and psychologically. Dar a Luz workers also strive to make the woman as comfortable as possible during delivery, while offering her words of encouragement and reassurance. This gentler approach to birth is novel in Honduras within the hospital setting.
The latest feedback from these students has been positive. They have described the care of the midwife and doula team as “inspiring”, and informative. We plan to continue the work in Hospital Regional de Occidente over the next week, with the hope that the student doctors will graduate with a broader understanding of correct and respectful birthing practices.